Trump Will Face One Big Problem at the North Korea Summit -  He's a Terrible Negotiator

At the moment the on, off, on summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un appears to be in the on phase. “Appears” because that’s before North Korea has responded to claims from Rudy Giuliani that Kim begged Trump for the summit on his knees. But Trump does seem to be sticking to giving Kim exactly what he wanted otherwise—a meeting as equals, on neutral ground, with no preconditions. All of which means that getting to this stage scores a lot of points for the North Korean leader.

While Trump isn’t laying out any advance conditions, he does have some goals for the meeting.

The White House wants North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to commit to a timetable to surrender his country’s nuclear arsenal when he meets President Donald Trump next week in Singapore, a high-stakes summit that could last as long as two days -- or just minutes.

If there are details on that timetable, they haven’t been made public. And it would seem to be difficult to get North Korea to agree to any sort of inspections for decreased sanctions regime, since Trump just broke exactly that type of international agreement with Iran. But if there is nothing certain on the list of what Trump should do, there’s one big definite on what he should not.

Trump has been advised not to offer Kim any concessions, as the White House seeks to put the onus on the North Koreans to make the summit a success, one U.S. official said.

Which sounds fine … except that Trump is already the person who agreed to this meeting over the objection of advisers. And he’s the person who doesn’t have an issue with following instructions.

President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers Tuesday when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on his reelection — including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.

If Trump were to walk away from the summit with a lasting agreement to improve conditions for both South Korea and North Korea, it would be fantastic. However, that idea appears to also be fantastic in the “fantasy-based” sense. It seems clear that there’s no real plan, well-defined goal, or even outline for proceeding baked into this hastily re-arranged get together.

Kim and Trump are going to sit down, autocrat a autocrat, and make what Trump says he likes best: a personal deal. And the only problem with letting Trump make deals is, he’s really, really horrible at it.

… it makes complete sense when you consider the actual arc of Trump’s history as a real-estate developer. Indeed, as reporter Michael Kruse writes in a new piece for Politico, any successes Trump had in business occurred at the very beginning of his career, including the conversion of the Commodore Hotel to the Grand Hyatt at Grand Central and the building of Trump Tower. In those deals, according to Politico, he demonstrated a modicum of “salesmanship, verve, cunning, and good timing.” But his discipline and focus started to dry up shortly after those transactions and, hilariously, around the time he agreed to write a book called the The Art of the Deal, striking a comically awful agreement—for him—with ghostwriter Tony Schwartz, who said that Trump “basically just agreed” to all of his demands, including “an almost unheard-of half of the $500,000 advance from Random House and also half of the royalties.” 

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